I love blind tasting.  They’re fun and challenging, and always full of surprises.  IThey’re also intimidating; for the taster as well as the winery.  Without the label and all of its preconceived notions removed, all you’re left with is the experience of tasting the wine.

A Blind Tasting Challenge puts it all on the line- an exercise that requires, as they say in  Italiano, palle”.

One winery I work with, Tolaini, is famous for its blind comparative tastings.  The Tolaini estate is located in the heart of Chianti Classico, inside Castelnuovo Berardenga.  The wines are based in Sangiovese, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon.  All of the wines are both representative of the terroir of this part of Toscana, and also brilliant interpretations of something more.

Call them Modern.  Call them Traditional. Call them Super-Tuscan.  Call them Chianti Classico.  All those labels are correct, although none of them do the wines justice.  You really have to taste them to understand them.

The people at the Tolaini Estate are willing to bet you like them.

On September 24th 2012, at the NoMad Hotel, Fred Dexheimer, M.S. led a blind comparative tasting of 2008 vintages with nine top sommeliers.

The wines were tasted in three varietally-based flights.

At the conclusion of each flight, the wines were ranked from most favorite to least favorite and were judged on balance, ageability and pleasureability.

Here is the final ranking of each flight:

2008 Sangiovese

1. Tolaini Al Passo
2.  Montevertine
3.  Ornellaia Le Volte
4.  Antinori Tignanello

2008 Merlot

1. Tolaini Picconero
2.  Ornellaia Masseto
3.  Chateau Cheval Blanc
4.  Pahlmeyer

2008 Cabernet Sauvignon

1.  Tenuta San Guido Guidalberto
2.  La Sirena
3. Tolaini Valdisanti
4.  Chateau Mouton-Rothschild

For me, these results are just another reason to be completely fascinated by Italian wine.

Tolaini shows us that when you remove all prejudice, and even when confronted with some of the world’s most famous, respected wineries, Italy shines.

*As the US-based operations for Tolaini’s national importer is with Banville & Jones in New York, the winery has offered to donate $1 for every bottle of its wine sold in the month of december.  Help support NY in the aftermath of the hurricane, and enjoy a bottle of world-class Italian wine.